Paris-Tours: Arnaud Démare wins again in select group sprint
Defending champion repeats after dusty day on gravel and road, beating Edward Theuns and Sam Bennett.
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Defending champion Arnaud Démare played things perfectly to repeat his Paris-Tours victory on Sunday, proving best in a reduced bunch sprint to the line.
The Groupama-FDJ rider had a perfect leadout from his team and hit the line ahead of Edward Theuns (Trek-Segafredo) and Sam Bennett (Bora-Hansgrohe), who had been on the attack for a substantial chunk of the race.
Simone Consonni (Cofidis) and Luca Mozzato (B&B Hotels-KTM) filled the remaining places in the top five.
“We rode a great team race, I think we nearly all finished in the front group and we had a guy, Olivier Le Gac, up front with two km to go,” said Démare. “The whole team did a great job. I’m really happy, I didn’t expect this type of finish with 40 riders … it’s great.”
The race featured ten gravel/dirt road sectors, billed as vineyard paths by the organizers. These complicated things for the riders and made a big group gallop less than guaranteed.
“The [gravel] paths really hurt, but because there were good teams in the break we didn’t ride too hard,” said Démare. “There won’t be many finishes like this in the future. I’m the happier as I had seven runner-up places in the last two months. If I should win only one, it was this one. It’s a super ending to the season.”
How it played out:
The 2022 edition of Paris-Tours ran from Chartres to Tours and featured almost a dozen vineyard paths (AKA gravel sectors) during the 213.5 kilometers. Three riders attacked soon after the start, with Jonas Abrahamsen (Uno-X Pro Cycling Team), Clément Carisey (Go Sport-Roubaix Lille Métropole) and Alexis Gougeard (B&B Hotels-KTM) powering clear and being joined approximately 26km later by Romain Cardis (St Michel-Auber93) and Maël Guégan (Team U Nantes Atlantique).
The five leaders worked well and had established a lead of almost seven minutes after 80 kilometers. Aside from enjoying a considerable advantage over the peloton, they also avoided multiple crashes in the bunch, with the fallers including Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Deceuninck), Ben Turner (Ineos Grenadiers) and Niki Terpstra (TotalEnergies), who was riding his last race.
With 63 km remaining Irish sprinter Sam Bennett and Kim Heiduk (Ineos Grenadiers) forged ahead. Another group ripped clear of the bunch behind them, with Clément Russo (Team Arkéa Samsic), Tim Van Dijke (Jumbo-Visma), Alex Kirsch (Trek-Segafredo), Rui Oliveira (UAE Team Emirates), Antoine Raugel (Ag2r Citroën Team), Oliver Le Gac (Groupama-FDJ) and Luca Mozzato (B&B Hotels-KTM) chasing hard.
Russo, Mozzato and Kirsch then emerged from this group and joined Bennett and Heiduk, with these five chasers 1:45 behind the leaders with 39 kilometers remaining. Those out front reduced to four when Gougeard was dropped with 25km left. Carisey also slipped back when a puncture ended his chances.
Abrahamsen was concerned by the plummeting gap and made his move from the leading group with 13km to go, just before the Bennett group was joined by another group of chasers. Kirsch then launched a big attack from there with 11km remaining, taking Le Gac and Heiduk with him and working hard to try to close down the lone leader. They duly bridged across with just over 7km to go, and hammered the pace in a bid to fend off a reformed main bunch.
The peloton was drawing closer and closer, however, and the junction was made with just over a kilometer to go. Démare then proved best out of the sprinters to repeat his 2021 victory.